Eight-year-old Felipe Gómez Alonzo died of the flu and “a rapid, progressive infection that led to organ failure,” his autopsy said. Felipe was the second child to die while in Customs and Border Protection custody last December. Like Felipe’s, seven-year-old Jakelin Ameí Rosmery Caal Maquin’s recent autopsy report said that “a rapidly progressive infection” led to her death while in detention.
An official from a Mexican shelter that housed Felipe and his dad shortly before their arrival in the U.S. that month said the boy was not sick when he left the facility. “Felipe was here. He was in perfect health condition.” But then, in U.S. custody, the boy was reportedly shuffled from cold facility to cold facility for days on end, eventually getting sick and dying at a New Mexico hospital on Christmas Eve.
Doctors who reviewed Jakelin’s autopsy told the New York Times that her infection was so aggressive, she “probably would have been visibly sick for many hours” before her death. Jakelin’s dad has also insisted that his daughter was healthy when they arrived at the border. Guatemalan consul Oscar Padilla said that “we have not been able to establish where they were infected,” but that “what we know is that the children left their homes healthy.”
The Department of Homeland Security has a budget of billions that could be spent on processing vulnerable asylum-seekers and children humanely and with dignity, but instead the department has been focusing on a stupid and useless border wall, and it was only when Felipe died that DHS Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen decided to expand health screenings for migrant kids.
But that’s simply not enough, because congressional Democrats who visited where Felipe was detained condemned the kinds of facilities vulnerable people are held in. “If you go into CBP processing centers or detention centers,” said Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Joaquín Castro of Texas, “no American would be proud of the way that we are treating” migrants coming to the U.S. southern border.